Once upon a time, Disney Animation was the only studio making blockbuster animated features. Today, animation is perhaps the most crowded of all the film genres in Hollywood. Disney Animation never used to have any competition, but in recent years Disney has been overshadowed by it's sister studio Pixar and other studios like Dreamworks Animation.
With so many studios producing so many animated films which studios and films are able to stand out, if any?
To start, we will start with the once dominant Disney Animation. Up until very recently Disney has been struggling. Ever since the end of the "Disney Renaissance" in the 90s, which includes the studio's films from The Little Mermaid (1989) to Tarzan (1999), Disney has struggled to maintain it's top dog status in the animation industry. For a while, that spot was taken by Pixar. However in the last few years it appears that DisneyAnimation may be making a come back.
Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen, and Big Hero 6. Have all been well received by both fans and critics alike. Many are calling this new era of Disney films the "Disney Revival" or simply a return to form for the studio. I would have to agree with this sentiment. The Disney films between the Renaissance period and these more recent films, such as Chicken Little and Home on the Range, seem to be missing the classic feel that most of it's successful films have. They were focused more of flash and flare than on the emotional stories, which the studio is famous for. These newest films are a return to form in that the stories one again focus on the emotional relationships between friends and family, and I think this has made all the difference in getting audiences to connect with them. If Disney continues on this streak they may very well have another Renaissance on their hands. I think that Disney, although it will probably never be as dominant as it once was, is still one of the few studios that stands apart from others in terms of it's style, storytelling, and over all quality animation.
Pixar, which has long been a fan favorite studio for many years, seems to have stumbled a bit in recent years. Ever since it's first film Toy Story, Pixar had been consistent in producing quality, original animation. However, recently the studio has been releasing more squeals than new content, and the sequels have been lack luster at best. There is the legend that the founders of Pixar came up with all the ideas of all their films in one day and have been using only these ideas (aside from the squeals) over all these years. Is it possible that the studio is finally running out of those ideas?
I don't think anyone will disagree with me when I say that Cars 2 was absolutely awful. Monsters University wasn't quite as disastrous, but it wasn't nearly as impressive as the first installment. Brave, while beautifully animated received mix reviews. Pixar's upcoming film Inside Out is an new franchisee for the studio. It will be interesting to see if they can redeem themselves and do their once flawless filmography justice with this new content.
Moving on to a Non-Disney studio, we have DreamWorks Animation. DreamWorks is arguably, and easily so, the only other animation studio currently that has as much brand recognition as Disney Animation and Pixar. DreamWorks has been extremely successful in recent years, with many popular franchisees including Shrek, How to Train York Dragon, and Madagascar.
Most of DreamWorks recent films have been well received by critics. Mr. Peabody & Sherman, received generally good reviews, while How to Train Your Dragon 2 received excellent ones. The studio has two upcoming films. Penguins of Madagascar is another installment in their already popular Madagascar franchisee, while Home is a completely new film. Home was originally supposed to be released this month, but has been pushed back until March, switching it with Penguins of Madagascar. It begs the question of whether or not there are problems with the production and if Home will be up to par with recent studio standards.
But these three studios aren't the only players in the field.
With so many different contenders it's a wonder that the animation industry doesn't cannibalize itself. It may very well be on the way to doing so. As a fan of animation I can't help wishing that more of the studios would focus less on producing so many films, and instead focus on making the ones they do produce as high quality as possible. Unlikely that will happen, as this is Hollywood we are talking about, but come on a girl can dream.